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A Tart Winter

Who calls love conquering,
When its sweet flower
So easily dries among the sour
Lanes of the living?
— Philip Larkin

O the two-edged sword of surviving, the melancholy shawl of never having enough when comparing your crude faith to the sublime shades of the bus shelter come-on. Why just yesterday you were confronted by a super-sized advertisement selling the cult of patriarchal religion, an unholy trinity of gasoline, motor oil and engine-cleansing additives, and as you pondered your small place among the deaf and dumb idols of consumer excess, suddenly a Pavlovian quickening of pulse when a beautiful woman approached from the smoky coif of mountains to the west  could it have been? was it indeed? But no sooner had you wagered a small prayer that her meadow be blanketed by the honeyed dew of your genius did she crush the unripe berry of your hope, her stitched leather heel taking extra care to grind your wormy thought into the merest stain of a globule... and only then did your retina process her one- dimensional smile, the provocative turn of her lithesome, air-brushed wrist suspended like a Christmas tree ornament amidst the shiny bows and packages of her corporate pimp. She was an illusion, of course, just as the future is a chimera to the kindergartners waiting for the yellow van to whisk them to decrepit schoolyard barracks. Boom. How depressingly fitting. Your epiphany is less a raw moment of self-realization than it is a dismemberment of the sordid empire of your flesh by the cunning blade of your ugliness. You had, at that precise second, understood that life was a cruel hoax, a Russian babushka doll wrapped in onion skins and inserted into Pandora’s Box  like that time you ran up the seven flights of stairs to your studio apartment trying desperately to appease the gurgling consequences of your lunch of five pounds of dried prunes and were you going to make it? and the fearful squeak of your Keds on the burnished wooden steps and just as you thought a tragic ending would be inserted by the Great Producer in the sky it was with great relief that you pushed into the doorway and walked with mincing toe-to-heel very quickly (and very carefully) to the bathroom even then fumbling with your belt buckle as gravity pulled at your backside with its elongated fingers and the perfection of your relief as you sat down on the toilet seat and reached for the dog- eared book of Lorca you kept on the shelf only there was no volume of any kind but a glass container full of cotton balls and a tin of makeup remover and in a lengthening panic your eyes scanned the tiny lavatory and the shower curtain was clear instead of blue and your toothbrush wasn’t propped up like you left it and then to your horror the door pushed open and a young woman stepped inside and looked up in surprise when she noticed you this complete stranger propped up like a gutshot soldier on her toilet and she screamed and you screamed back similarly in a state of shock and she ran down the hallway and shouted “Police! Police!” and you flushed the toilet only to discover that she was out of paper and then near tears not knowing whether to stay and confront the police with your honest mistake or hop like a constipated bunny across the hall to the calming sanctity of your own flat you froze and wished to be anywhere else including Willits.

Which is to say that the NBA lockout is over. After months of rabid class warfare conducted in the penthouse suite of the Plaza Hotel in New York, the billionaire owners and the millionaire players realized that for the good of their wallets and egos (and nothing else), was it necessary to smoke the peace pipe and make obscene amounts of money, let themselves be fawned over by packs of well-tanned wharf rats posing at journalists who lob questions like, “What kind of stereo is in your Land Rover?”; “Did you ever witness a player recite Cato while shooting freethrows blindfolded?”; “Do you think that the current latest stock market surge, fueled by internet technology companies, can last?”; “Do you believe that GE has indeed invented a light bulb that can last forever, but is keeping the American public in the dark, so to speak, in order to continue to line their bespoke pockets with filthy lucre?” Then cut away to more rock and roll highlights of dunks, dunks, pompous mugging for the ubiquitous camera, “fans” in pin-striped suits high-fiving in their corporate courtside seats, Brent Musburger eating a cheesedog smothered in fey onions.

Closer to the homefront, new Warrior Chris Mills (who along with John  Starks was traded from the New York Knicks to Golden State) hopped on the first plane west when told he’d been shipped to Baghdad by the Bay. “I'm a hard worker and a guy who wants to go out and compete,” Mills said. “How can I be mad (about leaving a contender for the Warriors) or anything like that? I was fortunate to make it to the NBA. I grew up with nothing and now I have a lot. I have to come out here and I have to compete no matter who it's going to be with.” I dunno, maybe if nothing else is on Ill watch after all.

In Mendoland news, Washington’s Thorn Apple Valley Inc. last week  recalled approximately 30 million pounds of hot dogs produced over six months that may be contaminated with the food bacteria listeria, a company spokesman told the AVA Monday. The effects of the recall were felt most keenly in Ukiah, where some five million pounds of hot dogs are consumed daily. Said George Hightower in the parking lot of the Pear Tree Shopping Center, “It’s a burden. Hot dogs are part of being a Ukiahan, the Rotary Club, ignorance, and so on. But well make do. We didn’t live through the Great Depression, but TNT showed ‘Gone With The Wind’ for free a couple months ago, and I think we all know what lessons can be drawn from that.” Thorn Apple said it estimates that due to the hot dogs’ 77-day shelf life, 25 million pounds of the meat have expired and suggests boiling any hot dogs you suspect of being poisonous before frying them.

Interesting thought from Bobby Knight, jerk coach of the Indiana Hoosiers: How many referees are on the take in college and pro basketball and football? While being interviewed on ESPN Knight said that the quality of officiating has devolved to the point of pond scum over the last ten years, and that he and many other coaches think its quite possible a few officials are on the take. Let’s say Indiana is up by 11 over Michigan with 10 seconds to play. If Indiana was favored by 10, and the official calls a Hoosier for reaching on with time running out, thereby giving a Michigan player two free throws, and he makes them, cutting the lead to 9 as the final buzzer sounds, everyone wins: Indiana for its victory on the scoreboard, the dirty ref for making a seemingly meaningless call that had large gambling implications, the crooks who paid off the ref, who probably bet large sums of money on Michigan covering the spread, knowing their guy would do all in his power to secure their interests without making it too obvious.

Sunday is of course the Super Bowl. Like everyone else who is proud to  see Henry Hyde standing up for America and the Constitution and fruit-at-the- bottom yogurt, I'll watch, eat a few hot dogs, and hope the Broncos pound the Falcons into submission, agony, and hollandaise. Death to artificial turf and domed stadiums! Life to you and me!

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